March 12, 2008

A pundit reads (!) "Dreams from My Father"

Mona Charen writes:

"In search of answers that go deeper than the Congressional Record, I read his first book, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance." Once you get past the happy surprise of finding a politician who can actually write, the book contains some disquieting elements.

"Obama is the product of a union between a white Kansan and a black Kenyan who met in Hawaii. I had assumed, before reading his memoir, that Obama viewed himself as a natural bridge between the races and that his message of unity sprang in part from his biology. That was wrong. From his earliest years, Obama engaged in a preoccupying internal struggle to make himself a fully authentic black man."

James Fulford points out that it's about time more pundits read the Democratic frontrunner's memoir.

I think a lot of people just assumed that what they knew about Tiger Woods -- came from a stable mixed race home, didn't favor one part of his heritage over another, had a rock-solid psyche, etc. -- also applied to Obama. I realize that doesn't make one bit of sense, but stupid ideas can get stuck in people's heads for stupid reasons -- like all the doctors who assume that whooping cough is practically extinct because whooping cranes are practically extinct.

Charen very nicely sums up the slipperiness of the book:

"Left-wing ideas are not so much articulated in this memoir as presumed."

Which means you have to read the book to get a sense of where he's coming from. There are no soundbites in it.

You hear a lot of talk about whom Obama's role model might be: Martin Luther King? Malcolm X? Ronald Reagan? Obama's campaign kickoff rally in Springfield, Illinois last year was carefully crafted to remind voters of Abraham Lincoln.

And yet, Obama's most important role model would seem to be another Harvard Law School grad (Class of 1966), one who was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court during the summer between Obama's second and third years at Harvard Law School: David Souter, the "stealth nominee" with almost no paper trail. In contrast to the outspoken Robert Bork in 1987, Souter cruised to easy approval by the Senate.

It seems silly to accuse a man who published his autobiography at age 33 of hiding his views like Souter. And yet ...

One idea I had was to take random swatches of Obama's prose from Dreams from My Father and paste it into Word and run the Spelling and Grammar checker to get Readability Statistics. My guess is that the average sentence length in Dreams is very high.

But where can I find slabs of vintage prose from a man who abhorred leaving a paper trail? I thought about checking this statistic from quotations from Dreams in my articles, but I tended to pick more easily comprehensible excerpts and/or replace unnecessary clauses with ellipses to try to make his words less eye-glazing.

All I could find online was Obama's Preface to the 2004 edition of Dreams, which may not be representative of his 1995 book, since he says in it, "I have the urge to cut the book by fifty pages or so, possessed as I am with a keener appreciation for brevity."

For that 2004 selection, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is 12.2 (first year of college). I really don't know how the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is arrived at.

By way of comparison, Obama's 2004 Preface is rated for a lower grade level than my 2007 American Conservative article, "Obama's Identity Crisis," about the book (13.2). Interestingly, though, Obama's average sentence length is 30.4, compared to my 23.8. And that's including two comically serpentine sentences I quoted from John Updike's The Coup (average length 48 words and Grade Level of 21.1, or 6th year of postgraduate work!)

13 comments:

headache said...

Good post Steve. What is the inference about long sentences? Do people talk that way because they are hiding things? I've had my sentence lengths cut down radically by working in Engineering. It does seem to be compatible with long winding sentences. But you are right. Obama has been eyeing this prez. run for a while, probably agitated along by the likes of Soros. So he must have known that writing things would get out into the open. Most probably he was also coached on this subject the insiders such as Soros.

headache said...

Steve, please replace the first post of mine with the following. Sorry about the grammar, I was being negligent.

"Good post Steve. What is the inference about long sentences? Do people talk that way because they are hiding things? I've had my sentence lengths cut down radically by working in Engineering. It does not seem to be compatible with long winding sentences. But you are right. Obama has been eyeing this prez. run for a while, probably agitated along by the likes of Soros. So he must have known that writing things would get out into the open. Most probably he was also coached on this subject by the insiders such as Soros."

Anonymous said...

Steve, face it, you're just rationalizing your primeval fear of the black supermale. Obama is an Othello for our times: http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/514311/obama-is-an-othello-for-our-times.thtml

Anonymous said...

Frankly, one should strive not to score "highly" on those tests, as bad writing and complexity often go hand in hand. Good writing is clear, crisp, avoids latinisms, and the like. I'm sure some impenetrable sociology textbook is a lot higher on the skill than my writing (or yours, Steve) but that's not something any sane person would strive for.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that in the Spectator article the following takes the cake:

"Yet the moment there is any discussion of the black man having substance and intellectual prowess in combination with his physicality, the white man quickly becomes overawed — not to say redundant.

He can only stand back and watch while a new super-male emerges complete with go-faster stars, stripes, 50 states — and a gaggle of blondes if he wishes."

What else can be said after a quote like that?

mark said...

The right has been quiet on evil witch Hilary and her husband's financial dealings. Bill's pardons to Puerto Rican terrorists and tax evaders ought to make Americans concerned with the implications of hilary rule.

Anonymous said...

Geraghty at the Corner has also been commenting on the Book. Good job Steve once again getting there first.

Glaivester said...

I always assumed that the reason people thought whopping cough was practically extinct was because we have a vaccine against it.

David Davenport said...

He can only stand back and watch while a new super-male emerges complete with go-faster stars, stripes, 50 states — and a gaggle of blondes if he wishes."

What else can be said after a quote like that?


One can say that the Speccy is staffed by swishy public school old boys who fantacize about Obama and his wife spanking them.

That's something else.

Muswell Hillbilly said...

Hugh Hewitt, on his radio show, was also patting himself on the back for actually reading this book within the last couple weeks, and acting as if he was sounding the alarm on this undiscovered damning evidence (though, being the sunny-voiced coward terrified of being called a racist that Hewitt is, he stayed carefully away from the radical racial stuff and attacked Obama for his economic ideas). It's both hilarious and maddening the way these people predictably come to issues that Steve hits much earlier, and then when they do come around, it's always in such a less insightful manner.

Ralh Phelan said...

Obama is an Othello for our times
I hope that means he's gonna stick a shiv in that irritating wife of his.

JJ Dedalus said...

Came across this line from Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" and thought it was relevant.

"In an age of disintegration that mixes races indiscriminately, human beings have in their bodies the heritage of mulitple origins, that is, opposite, and often not merely opposite, drives and value standards that fight each other and rarely permit each other any rest."

Nietzsche also said that the sign of a healthy society is that it can take criticism. But Obama is demanding Blind Obedience to his authority BASED on Race WHILE denying that it's a factor! And he's not even in the White House yet!

Anyway, why is it one has to find something to the point, relevant and profound, about life today in a book written over a hundred and twenty years ago?

Well, Political Correctness, of course. Which, as we all know, was designed specifically to protect people like Obama and his wife from unpleasant realities, by people who were convinced that the likes of Obama, etc. were as psyhologically weak as their Benefactors.

In the same book Nietzsche says that "There is a point in the history of society when it becomes so patholgically solf and tender that it sides even with those who harm it....this is called "progress.""

So folks, if ya wanna a step out from under the dark cloud of modern day politics and into the bright light of reality, for goodness sake don't listen to the MSM, read Nietzsche. Or anything well written from the 19th Century, which, apparently, was when they stopped telling the truth.

David said...

Mencken told the truth until they shut him down in World War 2. HERE is his brilliant and short Notes on Democracy (pdf). Of particular interest to HBD'ers, politically, is the section entitled "Varieties of Homo Sapiens" starting on page 13 of the pdf (page 9 of the print edition reproduced).